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1797
Abolitionist and orator, Sojourner Truth, is born a New York slave on the plantation of Johannes Hardenbergh. Her given name is Isabelle VanWagener (some references use the name Isabelle Baumfree).  She will walk away from her last owner one year prior to being freed by a New York law in 1827, which proclaimed that all slaves twenty-eight years of age and over were to be freed. Several years later, in response to what she describes as a command from God, she becomes an itinerant preacher and takes the name Sojourner Truth. Among her most memorable appearances will be at an 1851 women’s rights conference in Akron, Ohio. In her famous “Ain’t I a woman?” speech she forcefully attacks the hypocrisies of organized religion, white privilege and everything in between.


1900
On this date, Howard Thurman was born. He was an African-American author, theologian, civil and human rights activist and educator.

Thurman was from Daytona Beach Florida; he studied at Morehouse College with Martin L. King, Sr., Rochester Theological Center, and Haverford College. He became widely regarded as one of the greatest spiritual leaders of the 20th century and was named by Life magazine as one of the twelve great preachers as such. He served as a pastor at a Baptist church in Ohio and as the Dean of the chapel at Howard University from 1932 to 1944. Until 1953, he served at Church of Fellowship of All Peoples, an interracial and interdenominational church he founded in San Francisco.

From there, in 1953, he served at Boston University until his retirement. There, he was the first African American to hold a full-time faculty position at Boston University. Thurman was one of the leading theologians of his time, writing the book, The Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death. He authored twenty one others including his autobiography in 1979. Howard Thurman died on April 10, 1981.



1924
This date in celebrates the Birmingham Black Barons baseball organization. They were one of many Negro League Baseball teams of the twentieth century.

More than 30 communities located primarily in the Midwest, northeast, and south were home to these franchises organized into 6 different leagues. Coming up from Birmingham’s active industrial leagues, in 1920 the club became a charter franchise in the Negro South League. Through its long history the club was at various times associated with the Negro Southern League, Negro National League and Negro American League.

The team’s prime time came in the 1940s when, as members of the Negro American League, the Black Barons fielded exceptionally strong teams featuring such stars as Piper Davis, Lester Lockett, Artie Wilson and Ed Steele. In 1943, 1944, and 1947 these strong squads captured the league title. However, none of these pennants led to a Negro World Championship crown as the club lost to the powerful Homestead Grays in each series.

The Black Barons formed a cornerstone of professional Negro baseball in the American South for more than 30 years. They ended operation in 1950.



1927
Bishop State Community College’s (BSCC) founding in 1927 is celebrated on this date.

Located in Mobile, Alabama, BSCC is one of more than 100 Historical Black Colleges and Universities in America. Bishop State Community College began as the Mobile Branch of Alabama State Teachers’ College of Montgomery. At first the College offered extension course for in-service teachers, in 1936, they established an all-year two-year college. In 1965, the College was named officially Mobile State Junior College.

In 1971, the state Legislature again changed the name to S.D. Bishop State Junior College in honor of its then president, Dr. S. D. Bishop. In 1989, the name of the College was changed to Bishop State Community College to reflect its growth in vocational/career, transfer offerings, and community service activities. On August 22, 1991, the Alabama State Board of Education consolidated two technical colleges in Mobile; Southwest State Technical College and Carver State Technical College with Bishop State Community College. These colleges now serve as campuses of Bishop State Community College.

The mission of BSCC centers on the needs of students and the community. They provide supportive services such as personal and academic counseling, tutorial laboratories and cultural enrichment. Bishop State Community College offers the associate of arts, associate of science and associate of applied science degrees and certificates in career and occupational programs. Extracurricular activities include three intercollegiate sports programs; basketball for men and women, baseball, and softball. Additional student activities at BSCC consist of the choir, band, and several student clubs, along with specific activities sponsored by the Student Government Association.



1936
John Henry Kendricks is born in Detroit, Michigan. He will become a prolific songwriter as well as a major rhythm and blues singer better known as Hank Ballard. He will perform with his group, The Midnighters, and make the following songs popular: “There’s A Thrill Upon The Hill” (Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go), “The Twist” (made famous later by Chubby Checker), “Finger Poppin’ Time”, “Work with Me Annie”, “Sexy Ways”, and “Annie Had a Baby”. He will be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. He will join the ancestors on March 2, 2003.


1936
This date marks the birth of Don Cherry. He was an African-American musician.

From Oklahoma City, Cherry’s family moved to Los Angeles four years after his birth. He started on trumpet in junior high school and began working with Ornette Coleman in 1956. The Coleman quartet moved to New York City in 1959, creating controversy and making revolutionary albums for Atlantic until it disbanded in late 1961. Shortly thereafter, Cherry worked with a wide array of musicians in this country and Europe: John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Steve Lacy, George Russell and Albert Ayler.

Cherry formed the New York Contemporary 5, his own combo, New and Old Dreams, and Codona. Equally adept in the creative spheres of freer jazz forms and world music situations, Don Cherry played the cornet, pocket trumpet, keyboards, wood flutes and doussn’gouni, melodica. He and Ornette Coleman were a groundbreaking musical artist of the late ‘50s/early ‘60s with their combo. He also played and recorded with most of the major forward-looking voices in jazz.

From the late ‘60s until his death October 19, 1995, Cherry lived a nomadic existence throughout the world, mixing jazz and world music.



1949
Jackie Robinson, of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is named the National League’s Most Valuable Player.


1956
Harold Warren Moon, professional football player (Minnesota Vikings, Houston Oilers, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback), is born in Los Angeles, California. He will be the first undrafted quarterback and first African American quarterback to be elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 2006.


1956
David Adkins, better known as “Sinbad,” was born on this date. As a child, he was the consummate jovial jokester, performing constantly for his three brothers and two sisters.


1964
The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, describes Martin Luther King as a “most notorious liar”. This statement is indicative of the agency head’s dislike of the civil rights leader.


1968
Gary Sheffield was born on this date. He is an African-American Major League Baseball player.

Gary Antonian Sheffield is the son of Betty Jones and step dad Harold Jones. He was born in the Ponce de Leon housing project in the Belmont Heights section of Tampa, Florida and was raised by his mom and step dad. He did not discover until age 11 that his biological father was someone other than Harold. That discovery about his real father was so unsettling that he began acting out in angry ways, joining a gang (the “Alley cats”) and earning a reputation for mischief. Many predicted jail time in his future but Sheffield stayed out of major trouble by playing baseball.

Part of his success was under the tutoring, and intimidation of his Uncle Dwight Gooden. Gooden was more like a big brother being only four years his senior and helped pave the way of baseball excellence for Sheffield. His Tampa team finished second in the 1980 Little League World Series

Sheffield was a first round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers, who selected him sixth overall in the 1986 amateur draft after a standout prep career at Hillsborough High School in Tampa. He is a 9-time All-Star and led National League in batting average (.330) and total bases (323) in 1992. Sheffield was a member of the 1997 World Series Champions Florida Marlins and is the first player to represent five different teams in the All-Star Game. Sheffield is also known for having one of the fastest bat speeds in Major League Baseball.

As a professional, Sheffield hired a publicist from New York, who has helped his image. At her urging, he started a charity, Sheff’s Kitchen that has given away tickets and autographs to many underprivileged kids. Through his financial donations, Sheffield has also revived the inner city baseball program in South Florida; and in 1996, he began picking up new endorsements. He makes public appearances speaking on issues that concern today’s youth, including the importance of a continued education, positive self-esteem and the avoidance of drugs. One of his main concerns is to enhance the education systems and increase economic opportunities in the inner cities. “Contributing to the community is one of the ways that I can convey my gratitude to those who have made me who I am today.”

In the June, 2007 issue of GQ Magazine, Sheffield was quoted saying that there are more Latin baseball players than black players because Latinos are easier to control; a comment that was supported by Carlos Guillen. He recently published a book ‘Inside Power’. Sheffield and his wife Deleon are raising his three children Ebony, Carissa and Gary Jr.



1969
The National Association of Health Services Executives is incorporated. NAHSE’s goal is to elevate the quality of health-care services rendered to poor and disadvantaged communities.


1972
Katherine Dunham, “The Enchantress,” served as stage director and choreographer of the Midwest premiere of Scott Joplin’s folk opera, Treemonisha, at Southern Illinois University. Ms. Dunham was born in Joliet, IL and, as a little girl, organized a dance group among the children of her neighborhood. She earned a bachelor’s degree, majoring in anthropology, with a special emphasis on dance as a primitive social manifestation. She also earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Northwestern University, after studying the customs and dances of the Caribbean Islands, thanks to a Julius Rosenthal Scholarship. In 1933, Ms. Dunham directed a Black group that appeared at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. In 1945, Ms. Dunham directed a Black School of Dance. Her autobiography, A Touch of Innocence, was published in 1959.


1975
Calvin Murphy of the Houston Rockets ends the NBA free throw streak at 58 games.


1977
Robert Edward Chambliss, a former KKK member, is convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four African American teenage girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Robertson, Denise McNair, and Cynthia Wesley.


1978
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is presented to Ambassador Andrew J. Young “in recognition of the deftness with which he has handled relations between this nation and other countries” and “for his major role in raising the consciousness of American citizens to the significance in world affairs of the massive African continent.”


1978
Mass Murder or was it Suicide? 913 persons, 276 of them children and most of them Black Americans, died in mass murder and suicide pact in Jonestown, Guyana. In the murder/suicide, after a cult, the People’s Temple of San Francisco’s African American community, moved to Guyana, in what the founder of the cult, James Warren “Jim” Jones, attempted to create an agricultural utopia and the cult began to be investigated for tax evasion, following the killing in Guyana of a U.S. Congressman, Leo Ryan, and five others, there to investigate the cult, the followers of the cult, were ordered to commit “revolutionary suicide” by drinking cyanide-laced grape flavored Flavor Aid (not Kool Aid).

Shortly before the mass suicide, Ryan and the others were killed in an airfield. Ryan had just landed in Guyana to investigate alleged human rights abuses at Jonestown. Jonestown was a commune of the People’s Temple Sect in northwest of Georgetown, Guyana that was established in 1974.

In the murder/suicide, children died first. Babies were killed by poison being squirted into their mouths with a syringe, then the adults were poisoned with the laced drink, some forcibly. Those who that did not drink the laced drink were forcibly injected with the cyanide while security guards shot others. Jones was found with a bullet wound in his head, whether his death was suicide or murder is unknown. When the bodies came home, many could not be identified. Several cemeteries refused to take them until the Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland stepped forward in 1979 and accepted 409 bodies. The remaining victims had been cremated or buried in family cemeteries.

In an investigation of the murder/suicide, the leader Jim Jones was initially found dead sitting in a deck chair with a gun shot wound to the head. Whether his death was suicide or murder is unknown. When the bodies came home, many could not be identified. Several cemeteries refused to take them until the Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland stepped forward in 1979 and accepted 409 bodies. The remaining victims had been cremated or buried in family cemeteries.


1980
Wally “Famous” Amos’ signature Panama hat and embroidered shirt are donated to the National Museum of American History’s Business Americana collection. It is the first memorabilia added to the collection by an African American entrepreneur and recognizes the achievement of Amos, who built his company from a mom-and-pop enterprise to a $250 million cookie manufacturing business.


1992
Filmmaker, Spike Lee’s motion picture, Malcolm X, a film about the life of Malcolm X, opened to a nationwide audience on this date.


1983
“Sweet Honey in the Rock,” a capella singers, perform their 10th anniversary reunion concert in Washington, DC.


1993
Black and white leaders in South Africa approved the new democracy constitution that gave blacks the vote and ended white minority rule.


1994
Bandleader Cab Calloway joins the ancestors in Hockessin, Delaware, at age 86.


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1890

D. McCree is granted a patent for the portable fire escape. Patent #440,322.